CALIFORNIA HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY – The federal government selected California, among five other states, to participate in a groundbreaking federal program to help ease chronic homelessness, an issue that affects about 136,000 people in the Golden State.
While more than a dozen groups in the state that work closely on homelessness will participate in the program, the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) will lead the effort jointly coordinated by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and CalHFA.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration invited nine states to apply for the “Homeless Policy Academy” division of the nation’s Strategic Action Plan on Homelessness and chose six. California’s application outlined challenges, current programs and proposed efforts to fight homelessness.
Research in action
The program is an outgrowth of related work conducted from 2001 to 2006 by HHS, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Veterans Administration (VA), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
The work was designed to bring together state-level program administrators and homeless service providers to develop state-specific action plans to increase access to mainstream resources for people experiencing homelessness.
“Homelessness is a critical issue in California, and it has a far-reaching effect, from contributing to poor health to increasing behavioral health problems,” said Claudia Cappio, the Executive Director of CalHFA.
“Many people don’t realize how close some Californians, including their family members or friends, are to being homeless,” she added.
About one of every 280 Californians is homeless, according to an annual report to Congress.
California’s 10 year plan
As part of the Academy, California will receive technical assistance to reduce chronic homelessness and compare successful programs and practices across the nation to reduce fragmentation, increase community education and leadership, and provide a framework to best use available resources.
California is in the midst of a “Ten Year Chronic Homelessness Action Plan” that includes five goals to combat the problem:
- Establish a statewide prevention effort to reduce chronic homelessness.
- Increase the supply of affordable housing for the homeless or those at-risk.
- Identify as soon as possible those at-risk and establish programs and policies for prevention.
- Improve accessibility of supportive services.
- Promote financial stability for homeless residents.
The academy will help further improve the plan and state efforts by identifying and determining how federal and state programs, such as the Affordable Care Act, CalFresh, CalWORKs and Medi-Cal funds, can be coordinated to help the homeless.
Other state agencies and departments participating in the academy include Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission, Department of State Hospitals, Department of Alcohol & Drug Programs, Department of Health Care Services, and the Health & Human Services Agency. About 15 groups throughout the state, from nonprofits for the homeless to law enforcement, will also be involved in the effort.
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